The Road Ahead : April May 2012
WWW.ROADAHEAD.COM.AU 76 THE ROAD AHEAD APR/MAY 2012 MEMBER ESSENTIALS MODEL MAKER FROM THE BACKYARD workshop of his Tingalpa, Brisbane, home, RACQ member Bernie Ehmer skilfully crafts model speedway and racing cars so convincingly that they could pass for the real thing. Size aside, of course. If the face or name sound familiar, it's probably because Bernie and wife Eileen have been entertaining and delighting children and adults alike with their marionette and puppet productions for years. They are respected players on the world stage of puppetry, renowned for their art, and can count the late Jim Henson of The Muppets fame and Caroll Spinney (Big Bird), along with Beppo the Clown, among colleagues and acquaintances. In recent years, though, Bernie has turned his focus and hand to model cars. It was the rekindling of a passionate interest that goes back to his childhood. "My father used to take me to Exhibition Speedway (at the RNA Grounds) on a Saturday night and you'd marvel at the speedcars roaring around that tight, little track, their paintwork and chrome gleaming under the floodlights," Bernie recalled. "It made quite an impression on me." That's putting it mildly -- inspired, Bernie began building model cars so that he and other kids in his West End neighbourhood could play at being demon speedway drivers, racing the cars down the hill in their street. It was these very skills and creative ability he later would put to good use making puppets and marionettes that would enchant and captivate audiences for several generations. Fast forward some 50 years to 2005. Since then, nearly 20 faithfully- detailed model cars have rolled off the Ehmer production line. They're all veritable works of art, but the one that old-time Queensland speedway followers would instantly recognise is the reproduction of the famous Q5 Mulcahy Offy, raced with much success at the Ekka grounds by Bill Goode. Bernie's method of construction is way too detailed to list here, but the starting point is the car wheels (derived from a mass-produced trolley item). From there, everything is done to scale to fit. The body and chassis, etc, are drawn up on paper and the design transferred to a foam styling block with the actual car fabricated from fibreglass. While he takes a measured approach, eye judgment counts for a lot. Nothing is too much trouble, with exacting detail stringently adhered to, even on parts -- such as a driveshaft -- that can't be seen. "It's like building a real car by hand," Bernie said. "You can reach a frustration point in all of it, but I don't mind a challenge." So how long does one model take to make? "About 100 + hours -- give or take -- over a couple of months," Bernie said. That's a considerable amount of time, but then, the pursuit of perfection never did come quickly. STORY BARRY GREEN | PHOTO JIM MCEWAN model of a maker 'Home-made' and 'hand-built' are words that take on a literal meaning for Bernie Ehmer.
February March 2012
June July 2012